Having been completely blown away by Gustavo Dudamel's performance of the Shostakovich fifth Symphony (see the review), I was on the lookout to see what other critics made of him. The answer is surprisingly polarised.

In the Evening Standard, Barry Millington was as enthused as me (and the audience) by the “high-octane performance”: “Nor was it only the players who were susceptible to the blistering intensity of the finale: the surge of adrenaline in the stalls was palpable. Within seconds of the last great timpani thwack, the entire audience was on its feet. You don’t see that every day at the Festival Hall.” In the Guardian, Andrew Clements came away convinced by the musicality also: “What characterised Dudamel's account of this most familiar of all Shostakovich's works was its thoughtfulness.”

But this isn't everyone's reaction. There's definitely a set who aren't comfortable with the extreme energy levels that Dudamel brings. In the Telegraph, Ivan Hewett complains that “even in this tragic and grim response to the horrors of Stalinism, a certain aloofness and holding back might not go amiss.” Richard Fairman, in the Financial Times, covered the Sunday performance of the Tchaikovsky fifth. Fairman describes Dudamel as “exhilarating and exhausting”, and makes it clear that he would have preferred a more restrained offering, ending with: “His shattering performance is just not one to be experienced often”.

And finally, there's the “If it's not in the score, I don't want to hear it” view, represented by Bob Briggs in Musicweb :“Why Maestro Dudamel chose to interpret this work the way he did, contrary to the score, is a mystery to me. His performance was wild, insane, out of control, banal, vulgar, glorious, intense, funny, deeply felt, exciting and I loved every minute of it – but I never want to hear Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony like this again!”

I get the distinct impression that the world is divided into the classical purists and the rest. Dudamel is definitely outside the purist camp: he loves popular music and claims to listen to Salsa and bolero music on his iPod before a concert. Everyone, detractor and promoter alike, will agree that he takes things to extremes, painting the music in vivid colours, and you can't argue with his knowledge of the score, even if he chooses to disobey it.

The purists are clearly disturbed by the intensity of feeling that the performance demands of them: they don't want to be dragged along, needing a bit of mental space in which to enjoy the music. And the sheer amount of movement on the podium offends and distracts them from the music.

Personally, I'm unequivocally in the opposite camp. I left the Royal Festival Hall exhausted and delighted, on a massive high that felt like leaving a rock'n'roll gig, but the exhilaration came as much from the delicate build-up of the first movement and the ironic humour of the second as it did from the thunderous ending. I can't think of anything better: if we want to bring a younger generation into the classical world, I am sure that this emotional intensity is essential.

Los Angeles audiences are drooling with anticipation about Dudamel's forthcoming appointment to head the LA Phil. The LA Times printed this about Dudamel's March performance:After intermission, Berlioz got the full, highly charged, dripping-with-color Dudamel treatment -- a fabulous, in-your-face "Symphonie Fantastique." Berlioz portrays drug-induced dreams and nightmares. Dudamel added Technicolor, wide screen and multichannel sound in an avid performance that underscored absolutely everything he could possibly underscore.

Dudamel is conducting the Gothenburg Symphony in Symphonie Fantastique at the Proms in August (inexplicably in the lowest price bracket). I guess that several of the reviewers above have no desire to be there, but I've got my tickets and I can't wait!